Thu | Nov 30, 2023 | 4:25 AM PST

Google recently rushed out another emergency patch for a Zero-Day vulnerability in its Chrome browser that cybercriminals were actively exploiting in attacks prior to a fix being available.

The flaw, tracked as CVE-2023-6345, marks the sixth Chrome Zero-Day exploit in 2023 and showcases a growing trend in major browsers suffering Zero-Day attacks.

This mounting crisis underscores how cyber adversaries have now turned core web browsers into a prime target. Software that billions rely on to access critical information and services online is being subjected to an onslaught of sophisticated cyber espionage attempts.

Lionel Litty, Chief Security Architect at Menlo Security, discussed this trend with SecureWorld News:

"Despite all the care taken by Google engineers, we continue to see a steady stream of security issues that are exploitable, including many 0-days that are actually exploited. An additional factor explaining the popularity of attacks on Chrome is that so many browsers are based on Chrome, including Microsoft Edge. Developing an exploit against Chrome usually means that it will work against all browsers, save Safari and Firefox, allowing bad actors to target more victims without any additional work."

Google is far from the only browser vendor struggling to contain the sharp rise in threats. Apple, Mozilla, and Microsoft have likewise addressed multiple critical browser vulnerabilities and active Zero-Days impacting Safari, Firefox, and Edge respectively this year.

Consequences of browser-focused cybercrime

Hackers are able to utilize browser vulnerabilities to install malware and spyware on devices, steal login credentials for other services, extract sensitive user data, and maintain persistence inside systems.

Saeed Abbasi, Manager of Vulnerability and Threat Research at cybersecurity firm Qualys, explains: 

"Organizations face significant risks from browser bugs, including data breaches. Such vulnerabilities can also serve as entry points for malware and spyware, endangering corporate networks. Additionally, attackers might exploit these weaknesses to steal login credentials, potentially compromising further systems. Furthermore, breaches arising from these vulnerabilities can lead to non-compliance with data protection regulations.

To mitigate risks from browser vulnerabilities, organizations should prioritize regular updates and patch management to keep browsers up-to-date. Employee training is essential to raise awareness about the dangers of outdated browsers. Implementing network segmentation can restrict browser access to sensitive areas, reducing breach impacts. Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments help in identifying and remedying weaknesses."

In fact, Google and Apple recently revealed that select Zero-Days were being used specifically by commercial spyware vendors to hack Android and iOS mobile devices. Surveillance players have realized that targeting browsers provides extensive monitoring of victims while avoiding app store defenses.

The widespread presence of Google's Chrome browser and its shared components with the Microsoft Chromium-based Edge browser also multiplies the effect of any single exploit.

Hardening browser defense for the long haul

For organizations highly dependent on browsers to conduct operations, the mounting threat means they can no longer treat them as fully secure or benign software. Extra vigilance and browser-focused defenses are necessary to mitigate the elevated risk.

Abbasi advises that companies must make browser patching, updating, and vulnerability management a top priority. Segmenting browser access to sensitive systems and networks is another way to contain advanced malware or exploits. Ongoing employee training to avoid risky sites and files can also reduce attack surfaces.

Litty recommends advanced remote browser isolation technology to encapsulate untrusted web code and activity. He said:

"Organizations should focus on making sure their browser fleet is up-to-date and well-managed. Educate users and advise them to restart Chrome regularly so that they get updated. Audit what versions of Chrome you are seeing in your environment. Use Remote Browser Isolation to take all this attack surface off the table by running the browser in the cloud, away from the endpoint."

As sophisticated hackers pour more resources into penetrating long-trusted web browsers, defenders must recognize that the days of assuming their inherent safety are over. Fortifying browser and endpoint security is essential to account for the new reality of intensifying cyber espionage campaigns leveraging Zero-Days to compromise high-value targets.

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